“By all that is right, fair and profound, a film that wins the Best Picture Oscar should pass the ‘wow!’ test. Agreed, many past winners haven’t lived up to this standard. Time and again Academy voters have rewarded films that comfort or affirm basic truths or remind us, movingly, how things are. Or how we’d like them to be. But Best Picture winners should do more. They should turn heads, open doors, make history, raise a few eyebrows and rock the rafters on some level or another. They should make you say ‘Wow, I just saw something!’ And they should at least make you want to watch them a second time, if not a third or fourth.” — from one of my 2014 Birdman essays.
I’ve experienced four serious head-turners so far this year — Kenneth Lonergan‘s Manchester by the Sea, Cristian Mungiu‘s Graduation, Asghar Farhadi‘s The Salesman and Olivier Assayas‘ Personal Shopper. I’ve been delighted by or have otherwise greatly admired David Mackenzie‘s Hell or High Water, Luca Guadagnino‘s A Bigger Splash, Robert Eggers‘ The Witch and Gavin Hood‘s Eye in the Sky. But there’s a difference between high and peak voltage levels.
What unseen fall or holiday films seem to be generating that special anticipatory aroma? Answer: Ang Lee‘s Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, Barry Jenkins‘ Moonlight and Denzel Washington‘s Fences. Maybe. And that’s it.
I’m presuming that Robert Zemeckis‘ Allied, Peter Berg‘s Patriot’s Day, Ben Younger‘s Bleed For This, Damian Chazelle‘s La-La Land, Tom Ford‘s Nocturnal Animals, Pablo Larrain‘s Jackie, John Hancock‘s The Founder and Ewan MacGregor‘s American Pastoral will deliver something a little extra but otherwise I’m just not hearing those distant drums. You know what I mean. The sound that Carl Benham and Cpt. Englehorn heard from their offshore freighter, four or five hundred yards from that fog-shrouded Skull Island in King Kong. I’m just not hearing that.
No drums for Garth Davis‘s Lion, I’ve been told. And I’m just as worried as everyone else seems to be about Silence. If there are whiny, wimpy Andrew Garfield drumbeats they’re coming from all the way across the Pacific and across the swamps of time, from 17th Century feudal Japan. Why is literally nothing being said or heard about Steven Gaghan‘s Gold? Nothing at all.